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Author Topic: Milk  (Read 7614 times)

KvP

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Milk
« on: 13 Dec 2008, 01:12 »

So this biopic's been out for a few weeks now but it's just now broken into wide release. I just saw it, and I really loved it. I think you (yes you, person reading this) ought to see it.

It's a story that a lot of people don't really know about, for whatever reason. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States. Basically Milk was one of the catalysts for the infamous Castro street in San Francisco becoming a gay enclave in the 70's (and thus the perception of San Francisco as the gayest city in the world), and when San Francisco tried out a new method of election for the city council by which individual neighborhoods chose their own representatives, the Castro district elected him to a city council seat. He then became an icon for gay rights as the (new, then) christian conservative movement began to push discriminatory laws all across the nation, and he famously helped to defeat Prop 6, a california law that would have made it possible to fire teachers for being gay, or supporting gay colleagues.

The biopic is directed by Gus van Sant, who's been off making more arty pictures for the last few years (Elephant, Paranoid Park, Last Days, etc.) and he brings a dream-like quality to the picture. The cinematography is done by the same guy who worked cinematography for Zodiac, and it feels very authentic. The casting is really well done, Sean Penn plays Milk and does a fantastic job, toning down his usual theatrics. James Franco is his longtime boyfriend Scott Smith, and Diego Luna plays Jack, Milk's newer, more unstable boyfriend. Josh Brolin, who's everywhere these days, plays Dan White, the awkward, jittery city councilman whose obsession with Milk eventually turns tragic.

Milk is a standard biopic by most accounts, well cast and crafted for sure, but it hits all the same crescendos as your usual biopic would. But this movie is special in that it is unfortunately current. The specter of Proposition 8 hangs over this film throughout, and the passion exhibited by Penn as Milk and the other characters amplifies the emotional efficacy of the film because of it. See, usually I'm pretty cynical about movies. I have a tendency to keep films at arms length when it comes to messages they try to send. Too often they feel labored or manipulative. But I saw this movie tonight with two friends of mine, who I love very dearly, who are gay, and they've had struggles in the past with their families, their friends and their communities. And seeing it with them I couldn't distance myself from what Milk was attempting to convey. There were several moments throughout the film where we wept, particularly at one point, where Milk gets a phone call from a young man in Minnesota. But Milk isn't a sad movie, not really. It's a very hopeful movie, and "hope" is a word that's been thrown around quite a lot lately but... the film depicts the sort of mindless invective that started with Anita Bryant and continues to this day through Rick Santorum and others but it's not really bitter. It doesn't have to be, because the humanity of the main characters is plainly evident.

I don't know, I haven't been affected by a movie like this in a very, very long while. Maybe it was the circumstances under which I saw it, but just in general I think it was a very, very good, very moving film. It might be the best movie I've seen this year, and that includes the wealth of films that hit in early Summer.

There's also a really brilliant documentary called "The Times of Harvey Milk" that came out in the... 80's, I think. You should also see that. Here's an audio clip excerpt, from one of Milk's more famous speeches.

Has anybody else seen this movie? What does everybody think?
« Last Edit: 13 Dec 2008, 01:19 by KvP »
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Inlander

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Re: Milk
« Reply #1 on: 13 Dec 2008, 05:23 »

I'm really looking forward to seeing this film. It opens here in January, I think.

Also, having seen the trailer a couple of times, is it just me or does Emile Hirsch in this film look alarmingly like our very own Sam?
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Lines

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Re: Milk
« Reply #2 on: 13 Dec 2008, 07:47 »

I will either be seeing this or Frost Nixon tomorrow. The previews look excellent.
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KickThatBathProf

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Re: Milk
« Reply #3 on: 13 Dec 2008, 07:53 »

Oh man I cannot decide which one of those to see.
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Dimmukane

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Re: Milk
« Reply #4 on: 13 Dec 2008, 08:59 »

Don't decide, give in and see both.
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Joseph

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Re: Milk
« Reply #5 on: 13 Dec 2008, 09:00 »

I'm hoping to see this over the next week.  I've been really excited from when I first heard it was being made.  A truly tragic story, a better filmmaker couldn't have been chosen for it.  I haven't seen too many of Van Sant's films, but what I have seen has been uniformly excellent.  In particular, Paranoid Park from last year was a haunting and beautifully crafted and shot movie.

Frost/Nixon of course also looks quite interesting.  More than a few movies out right now that I'd really like to see.
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jimbunny

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Re: Milk
« Reply #6 on: 13 Dec 2008, 14:20 »

Sean Penn is an amazing character actor. After seeing All the King's Men, I'm glad he went into acting instead of politics. People that convincing probably shouldn't be making real decisions. I can't wait to see this movie.
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KickThatBathProf

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Re: Milk
« Reply #7 on: 13 Dec 2008, 17:09 »

Don't decide, give in and see both.

Oh ok.  Since the internet said it, I'll do it
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Reed

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Re: Milk
« Reply #8 on: 13 Dec 2008, 19:24 »

I think they chose a good writer for the movie too. He's the guy who does "big love" on HBO, which I think is an excellent show. Plus, growing up gay in mormon country must have given him a similar experience to San Francisco at the time of this movie.
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RedLion

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Re: Milk
« Reply #9 on: 14 Dec 2008, 13:48 »

I'll most definitely be seeing this over break, probably within the next week, at Sundance theater in Madison. It looks great, and your review of it makes me all the more pumped about it.
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De_El

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Re: Milk
« Reply #10 on: 14 Dec 2008, 22:08 »

Saw it, loved it, cried a lot.  I dunno, I was just in the right emotional space at the time to take it pretty much at face value and be totally drawn in.  It may have helped that it was a much needed distraction from other upsetting things going on in real life. KvP's definitely right about the tone of the movie.  It is very hopeful, despite some obvious reasons why it could have been really depressing; it had just the right balance and ended on just the right note to pull off it's vaunted hopeful message.

benji

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Re: Milk
« Reply #11 on: 15 Dec 2008, 10:06 »

I saw this film this weekend, and thought it was very good. Sean Penn plays a very charismatic Harvey Milk, and I think the film successfully conveys the sense of early gay activism, and the excitement, fear, anger, and hope of that early time. I would recommend this film to anyone, but especially if you have an interest in gay rights or the history of activism. Between this film and Frost/Nixon, we're certainly getting our dose of 1970s politics this year.
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Liz

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Re: Milk
« Reply #12 on: 15 Dec 2008, 10:20 »

I am drinking Milk right now. This thread is quite appropriate.

Also I really want to see this movie, but it's not out in Fargo. Hopefully we will get it at some point!
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sean

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Re: Milk
« Reply #13 on: 19 Dec 2008, 19:26 »

Oh man I just got back from seeing this. Holy shit was this film excellent.
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Liz

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Re: Milk
« Reply #14 on: 21 Dec 2008, 14:22 »

There is a dude with really curly hair, two of them actually. Neither of them really look like you though.

I just watched this last night, thanks to the internet (I have it downloaded to my computer now.). It is ridiculously good and it even made me cry a little.
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Inlander

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Re: Milk
« Reply #15 on: 21 Dec 2008, 20:10 »

Also, having seen the trailer a couple of times, is it just me or does Emile Hirsch in this film look alarmingly like our very own Sam?
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KvP

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Re: Milk
« Reply #16 on: 21 Dec 2008, 20:50 »

I am only vaguely familiar with the visage of our Sam, but the Emile Hirsch comparison did occur to me.
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Re: Milk
« Reply #17 on: 21 Dec 2008, 21:23 »

In other news, this movie opens in Australia on the 29th of January. The 29th of fucking January. What, do they put the reels in the hull of a sailing ship and send them across the Pacific or something?
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Aurjay

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Re: Milk
« Reply #18 on: 22 Dec 2008, 00:06 »

I want to see the movie but all I know about the backstory is that this where the famous "twinkie defense" came from.
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Liz

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Re: Milk
« Reply #19 on: 22 Dec 2008, 07:16 »

Harry, until then you should just watch it on the internet like me!

http://www.quickflicksnow.com/links/?id=354
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RedLion

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Re: Milk
« Reply #20 on: 22 Dec 2008, 20:51 »

Saw this last night! It was really great. It was one of those movies that started out kind of "eh," mediocre. Actually, Penn makes Milk kind of annoying in the beginning. But as it goes on and you get more invested in the character and see him as less of an individual and more of a symbol, it gets better. Even though you know he's going to die in the end, you kind of refuse to believe it until it actually happens--and when it does, it seems so horrendously senseless.

Question: Why, in real life, did the other councilman shoot Milk? I suppose I can understand the mayor, but why Milk, other than the fact that he voted against moving the psychiatric ward? I'm sure other councilmembers were just as obstructionary towards what he wanted to do as Milk was...so why him?
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Re: Milk
« Reply #21 on: 23 Dec 2008, 01:10 »

Just saw this a few hours ago, and I was impressed.  I agree with Lion about Penn, the film does a great job of investing you in the character.  Josh Brolin did a great job as Dan White, it was both fascinating and disturbing to watch him slowly unravel over the course of the movie.  The cinematography was great, especially the combination of archival/re-shot footage, and the scene reflected on the side of the whistle.  And yeah, I know it was a biographic, but I was surprised they didn't make a larger mention of the Twinkie Defense.
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KvP

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Re: Milk
« Reply #22 on: 23 Dec 2008, 11:22 »

Question: Why, in real life, did the other councilman shoot Milk? I suppose I can understand the mayor, but why Milk, other than the fact that he voted against moving the psychiatric ward? I'm sure other councilmembers were just as obstructionary towards what he wanted to do as Milk was...so why him?
White had originally intended to kill more people, but he lost his nerve after shooting Moscone and Milk.

There was another Milk biopic that was going to be made from different source material (a book, in that case, as opposed to the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk for this one) by Bryan Singer, who opted instead to make the (apparently awful) Valkyrie whilst Van Sant made this one. The book it was to be based on hammered on the idea of Dan White as homicidally repressed homosexual much more than this film did. It's only suggested once by Sean Penn's Milk early in the film. From the evidence that we have it's possible that White was closeted but he never admitted it if he was. But he was very obviously mentally ill, and cracked under the pressures of a job he was not suited for.
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Re: Milk
« Reply #23 on: 28 Dec 2008, 00:57 »

I think the film hinted at it very much. Just more subtle and very well done. I think that was the most devastating part of the whole story, especially with the fact that he committed suicide 2 years after leaving prison.
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Re: Milk
« Reply #24 on: 22 Jan 2009, 15:23 »

Just saw this a few hours ago, and I was impressed.  I agree with Lion about Penn, the film does a great job of investing you in the character.  Josh Brolin did a great job as Dan White, it was both fascinating and disturbing to watch him slowly unravel over the course of the movie.  The cinematography was great, especially the combination of archival/re-shot footage, and the scene reflected on the side of the whistle.  And yeah, I know it was a biographic, but I was surprised they didn't make a larger mention of the Twinkie Defense.
I think John Waters said it best. I really liked that they showed restraint in not showing Dan White eating a twinkie. Also this hopefully will win BP even if Slumdog is the frontrunner.
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